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Cinderella. by Anne Sexton and The Birthmark, by Nathaniel Hawthorne Essay

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Anne Sexton’s “Cinderella” and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark” deal strongly with the concept of perfection. Both works have a focus on the unattainability of perfection, yet their authors view this fact in different lights. For Sexton, the ease with which Cinderella obtains her so called “happily ever after” is sickeningly unrealistic. For Hawthorne’s Aylmer, it is the pursuit of total perfection that causes him to ignore just how perfect his life really is and the ruin to which his pursuits bring him.
Anne Sexton portrays the idyllic perfection seen in “Cinderella” and other fairy tales as both completely unrealistic and disdainful. The former can be seen in the subtle use of phrases like “rather a large package for a simple bird,” (Sexton 298) and “that is the way with amputations / they don’t just heal up like a wish,” (Sexton 298). The first quote refers to how a simple dove dropped “a golden dress and delicate little gold slippers” (Sexton 298) at Cinderella’s feet after crying “forth like a gospel singer” (Sexton 298). In reality, the dove could, under no circumstances, carry that kind of weight and still create enough lift to maintain flight. Furthermore, the idea that crying and screaming like a four year old at the grocery store who doesn’t get the sugary treat they wanted will be all the work that is necessary to achieve one’s desires is preposterous. The second quote refers to the actions taken by Cinderella’s step-sisters, who need to physically maim themselves in order to fit into a slipper. That the sisters believe they can simply chop a toe or one of their ankles off without the prince noticing anything is nothing short of ridiculous. The last stanza is perhaps the pinnacle of Sexton’s argument. Cinderella ...


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... 385) he would have seen that he was living the so called ‘perfect life.’ Aylmer had a beautiful wife, and would have lived happily with Georgiana for the rest of his life, were it not for his desire to make Georgiana unmarred by nature.
Both “Cinderella” and “The Birthmark” are stories of perfection. The former shows how foolish and unrealistic the ideals of perfection seen in ‘happily ever after’ stories are. The latter shows how easily obsessing over perfection leads one to ruin. However, both literary works reveal how perfection is something that is unattainable, and will always remains just out of grasp.



Works Cited

Hawthorne, Nathanial. “The Birthmark.” Introduction to Literature 5th ed. Eds. Findlay et al. Toronto: Nelson, 2004. 372-385.
Sexton, Anne. “Cinderella.” Introduction to Literature 5th ed. Eds. Findlay et al. Toronto: Nelson, 2004. 296-299.


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